The English Papers
On Achill the post came twice each week –
Tuesday brought Queenshead fivers,
postmarked Ormskirk, Tamworth, Kilburn –
short letters from villages of men
transplanted en masse to alien trenches.
Thursday brought brownpaper rolls, neatly
wrapped; Anthony Jack flung them from his bike,
cursed their weight, their wickedness, their
Englishness with equal ferocities. The Achill mother
unfurled the Sunday Post, plucked The News of the World
from the entrails of The Sunday Mail
and, with a magician’s sleight of hand,
made it disappear. The others
were absorbed, devoured by her children, tales
of dazzling sights and city lights grooming them too,
for the emigrant fate of their fathers. The mother
bided her time, waited for the covert hour, then savoured
the News of the World, revelled in stories
of bedroom romps, relief from absence and abstinence,
far-fingered foreplay, forbidden by Church and State,
twin conspirators who saw fit to make
slaves of their sons, sinners of their saints.
Mike Gallagher was born on Achill Island and worked in London for forty years before retiring to Kerry. His prose, poetry, haiku and songs have been published worldwide. His writing has been translated into Croatian, Japanese, Dutch, German, Chinese and Italian. He won the Michael Hartnett Viva Voce competition in 2010 and 2016, was shortlisted for the Hennessy Award in 2011 and won the Desmond O’Grady International Poetry Contest in 2012. His collection Stick on Stone is published by Revival Press.